Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Disneyland Measles Outbreak is Due to Measles

The current measles outbreak primarily emanating from Disneyland in California is up to 100 cases but not all are epidemiologically-linked to the Disneyland outbreak.  As is usual with measles outbreaks, most were completely unvaccinated, some were too young to be vaccinated.  There are numerous articles highlighting this well-known fact and that has anti-vaxxers on the defensive.  In fact, this screed by Laura Hayes appeared on the anti-vaxx, autism-hating blog Age of Autism:
1.  Has there been any laboratory confirmation of even one case of the supposed measles related to Disneyland?  If yes, was the confirmed case tested to determine whether it was wild-type measles or vaccine-strain measles?  If not, why not?  These are important questions to ask. Is it measles or not? If yes, what kind, because if it's vaccine-strain measles, then that means it is the vaccinated who are contagious and spreading measles resulting in what the media likes to label "outbreaks" to create panic (strange how they've completely missed the Autism outbreak going on for the past 25 years). It would be what one might call vaccine fallout.  People who receive live-virus vaccines, such as the MMR, can then shed that live virus, for up to many weeks...and can infect others.  Multiply that in your head by all of the people who receive not only the MMR live-virus vaccine, but many others. Other live-virus vaccines include the nasal flu vaccine, shingles vaccine rotavirus vaccine, chicken pox vaccine, and yellow fever vaccine.
That's right, apparently Laura Hayes is really good at asking the really dumb questions but not too adept at finding the answer before postulating what measles strain is circulating amongst those infected.  Hint: it isn't the vaccine strain.  This wasn't hard to find and is very specific about the genotypes:
Measles genotype information was available from 9 measles cases; all were genotype B3 and all sequences linked to this outbreak are identical. The sequences are also identical to the genotype B3 virus that caused a large outbreak in the Philippines in 2014. During the last 6 months, identical genotype B3 viruses were also detected in at least 14 countries and at least 6 U.S. states, not including those linked to the current outbreak.
And even more information regarding the differences in wild-type strains and vaccine-strains can be found here:

Genetic Characterization and Sequencing

Wild-type measles viruses have been divided into distinct genetic groups, referred to as genotypes, based on the nucleotide sequences of their hemagglutinin (H) and nucleoprotein (N) genes, which are the most variable genes on the viral genome.
The 450 nucleotides encoding the carboxy-terminal 150 amino acids of the nucleoprotein has up to 12% nucleotide variation between genotypes. The 450 nucleotides that encode the carboxy-terminal region of the nucleoprotein (N–450) are required for determination of the genotype. The measles genotyping protocol is available from CDC.
For each genotype, a reference strain is designated for use in genetic analysis (phylogenetic analysis), usually the earliest known virus isolation of that group. The means of referring to the genotypes has been standardized using alphabetical designations for the main groupings (clades). Within the main clades, numerals are added to identify the individual genotypes.
The following 19 genotypes have been detected since 1990:
A*, B2, B3, C1, C2, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, D8, D9, D10, D11, G2, G3, H1, H2
*Vaccine strains Moraten, Edmonston, Zagreb are all genotype A.
 There were 2 putative wild-type cases of measles identified as genotype A in 2008.
During 2011, 8 genotypes were identified by global surveillance:
B2, B3, D4, D8, D9, D11, G3, H1
Gosh that was simple.  Laura Hayes asks a lot more dumb questions and fills in the answers with her own fact-free assertions but there is too much stupid and not enough time to take them apart.  The important point here is that measles outbreaks are caused by measles viruses (not vaccine-strain) and a critical mass of anti-vaxxers clustering and causing large gaps in herd immunity. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HPV Jab Not Responsible for Wisconsin Girl's Death

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported yesterday that the medical examiner found Diphenhydramine intoxication caused the death of Meredith Prohaska, not HPV vaccination as her mother alleged.

A much-touted vaccine given to teens and preteens to prevent cancers caused by a sexually transmitted virus did not cause or contribute to the death of a 12-year-old Waukesha girl whose mother found her unresponsive in their home on July 30, the Waukesha County medical examiner said Wednesday.

Diphenhydramine intoxication — ingestion of a lethal level of an antihistamine — caused the death of Meredith Prohaska, though the manner of death is undetermined, Medical Examiner Lynda Biedrzycki said in a prepared statement.
"There is no evidence that any vaccination caused or contributed to her death," Biedrzycki said.

Diphenhydramine is a type of antihistamine found in various allergy and sleep medicines, including Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Nytol and Sominex, according to the National Institutes of Health. Overdose occurs when someone accidentally or intentionally takes more than the normal or recommended amount of a drug or medication.
Not having this information still caused the usual suspects to behave like slavering dogs with a piece of meat.  In fact one of those sordid stories included quotes by Meredith's parents:
“The only thing different about that day was that shot. I wish I would’ve known more about it before I agreed to it,” Rebecca Prohaska said.

“It has to be that vaccine,” Mark Prohaska said.
As we can see, it wasn't the only thing different that day and it wasn't the vaccine.  This is a tragic death that appears to be most likely preventable.  The Prohaskas have my deepest sympathy because as a parent, I can't imagine anything worse than losing your child. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

sadly - another: Aliana has SSPE

While social media are a-buzz with stories of a CDC whistleblower - let's remind ourselves why everyone should vaccinate their children (and themselves).

Max, Micha and Natalie have already died. Angelina, who turned 9 years last week, is still fighting. We know their names, because the measles vaccine has significantly reduced the incidence of SSPE, the fatal complication, that shrinks a child's brain, many years after infection.
Now, another girl has been diagnosed - learn her name - celebrate her life - vaccinate your kids, so not one more child has to join the exclusive club:

Aliana was born in early 2010 - a "good measles year" in Germany, with "only" 780 cases. Aliana was one of them - she fell ill as a 6 months old infant, it is not clear who infected her. Then she recovered, at least so it appeared. Aliana grew, she was an open, friendly girl. She quickly found friends, because everyone liked to play with her. In retrospect, she maybe fell more than her peers, but then again, she was still little. But suddenly, Aliana started to forget everything, she couldn't speak as well as she used to. Then, motor problems started, she stumbled, and fell. Unfortunately, the original diagnosis of epilepsy was wrong and 4 weeks ago, Aliana was diagnosed with SSPE. Her grandmother describes the indescribable [my translation from the German]:

I am the granny of a girl who loved life, played games, was friendly to all, and so kind. When I sang songs with her, she immediately knew the lyrics by heart. I could tell you so much more about this little girl, but it breaks my heart how slowly, everything gets lost.

This has to stop! Every case of SSPE, a fate like Aliana's and her family's heartache can be avoided. Check your and your children's vaccination records. Everyone should get/have gotten 2x MMR to protect themselves and babies like Aliana from measles.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pharma Shill Gambit? You Lose.

Anti-vaxx "activists" seem to be getting more shrill these days as more people are stepping up to the plate to counter anti-vaccine misinformation and register their disgust toward anti-vaxx parents putting others at risk and ushering back diseases such as measles.  The anti-vaccine misinformation groups really detest being called what they are...anti-vaccine and as Dr. Novella eloquently put it:
The anti-vaccine movement cannot win in the arena of science. In fact, they have already lost. So they are desperately trying to change the venue by framing the narrative as one about freedom, choice, and transparency. Ironically they are doing this with misinformation that detracts from transparency and freedom of choice.
Not only have they lost in the arena of science, anti-vaxxers never really understood science nor the scientific method to begin with and as such try to shut down rebuttal by accusing their opponents of being "Pharma Shills".  The Pharma Shill Gambit (coined by Orac many years ago) is an ad hominem tactic used by anti-vaxxers to avoid refuting their opponents' evidence.  Sadly, some notable "professionals" even resort to this tactic.  Hilariously Dr. Bob Sears attempted to to this to Catherina and I years ago when he issued a warning to his (now-defunct) forum readers.
There are rumors that SM and Cath are “secret agents” for vaccine manufacturers, planted here to combat my “anti-vaccine” advice. Although I wouldn’t put it past any company to do just that (makes perfect sense – have a couple of “scientific” parents work the blogs and posts instead of doctors or professionals – some parents would listen more to another parent), I have no evidence that such is the case. SM and Catherina claim they spend hours on this site each week for almost two years now out of the goodness of their hearts. I would love to believe that, but I would also expect such good-hearted people to come across good-heartedly in their posts toward people who question vaccines. That clearly is NOT the case, so that makes me question what type of people they really are.
Dr. Bob Sears even believes, in spite of all evidence against this, that any studies refuting a vaccine autism causation are conducted by pharma shills.  More recently, "journalist" Sharyl Attkisson, an anti-vaccine crusader accused a certain law professor of being a pharma shill via Twitter:
And just within the last couple of days, more shoddy reporting by NBC San Diego unquestioningly allowed notorious anti-vaxx "autism mom" Rebecca Estepp to accuse high school students of being pharma shills because she can't believe that high school students could be intelligent enough to see through anti-vaccine propaganda all on their own.

People accusing their critics of being pharma shills or better yet, pharma magnates do themselves no favours.  Those who do so appear incompetent and deluded enough to believe that this is an effective deflection.  Let's say for the sake of argument that we are pharma shills (granted this requires suspension of disbelief), we criticise or refute a point and are accused of being pharma shills.  How does this, in any way, invalidate our criticism or refutation?  The accuser is admitting that our knowledge is so impressive that we must have received specialised training/education/experience (and we have, just not at the Lord Draconis Zeneca's Académie of Shills and Minions).  The accuser is also admitting that they are out of their depth on the subject matter and are unable to intelligently respond.  Sometimes it is projection; often those who engage in the pharma shill gambit have books, videos and other dubious wares for sale and simply can't imagine people criticising them on their own dime.

So the next time someone accuses you of being a pharma shill, they lose.  Perhaps it's time to honour one of our esteemed "commanders" and call it Orac's Law.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anti-Vaxxer Ginger Taylor Fancies Herself a Film Critic Now

American anti-vaxx loon Ginger Taylor has written a review (for a very limited value of review) of Invisible Threat, a short documentary made by Carlsbad High School students and due to be released 1 August 2014.  Ms. Taylor attended a limited screening event in her hometown and is very very mad.  I can at least credit her with actually watching the film before trashing it, unlike her anti-vaxx "colleagues" who simply attacked it and the student filmmakers because it was about autism, vaccines and had Dr. Paul Offit in it.

Ms. Taylor's "review" can be found in it's incomprehensive rambling entirety on her blog.  I have no intent to go point by point but the parts of her incoherent, spittle-flecked diatribe that I could decipher bear the need for correction.
It was a flier for the new "hit" vaccine propaganda piece, "Invisible Threat."  (Since when to people who are in a film, review the film? Oh wait... HHS owns patents on the vaccines it licenses and recommends... forgot who I was dealing with.)
I'll actually give some credit to Ms. Taylor about that particular review however there are many more which can be found by professionals who had nothing to do with the production of the film.  The HHS (Health and Human Services I presume) does not own patents and licenses for recommended vaccines.  Those are held by the manufacturers.  For example, MMR II is owned and licensed by Merck while the Prevnar 13 license is held by Wyeth.  This is a pretty rookie mistake by an alleged "well-researched" anti-vaxx "activist".
You see I have a beloved friend and advocacy partner named Becky Estepp. You all know Becky, she has been a regular on Fox News Channel, and lots of local San Diego area news pieces for years.  If you want to talk a parent in Southern California who can discuss the problems with the vaccine program, and its relationship to the autism epidemic, Becky is your go to gal.

Four years ago, she got a phone call from a high school boy from CHSTV, an awkward sophomore, who said they were making a documentary, and had some questions.  Becky had a long conversation with him, but could tell some of the things she was trying to teach him were a bit over his head.  Then she never heard from anyone on the film again.

Cut to this year when she sees the trailer for "Invisible Threat," and realized THIS was the project she was interviewed for. A totally biased piece, allegedly done by teenagers, that was a bit difficult to believe was done by teenagers.  Why did they not interview her for the actual film?  Great question... I wondered too!
This never happened so either Becky Estepp and/or Ginger Taylor are flat out lying.  Firstly, the Invisible Threat documentary wasn't even proposed until 2012 yet Ms. Taylor claims that Ms. Estepp spoke to a student in 2010, two years prior to it's proposal to CHSTV Films.  How does that work without a Tardis?  Secondly, no students are allowed to make contact with adults like that; they are minors after all.  The parent volunteers will always initially contact potential interviewees.  No one from CHSTV Films ever spoke with Becky Estepp.
We also wondered, "Kids made this?  Really?"  From my estimation, yes they did.  But it seems pretty obvious that they were lead around by the nose on what what and how to "investigate."  In fact we were told at the outset that one of the kids parents worked for Scholastic and "helped" the kids.  I am sure that Rotary "helped" too.  Also apparently the Gates Foundation, "helped"... so....
How is it obvious that the students were "lead around by the nose"?  Was Ms. Taylor there?  Has she bothered to interview anyone involved with the production of Invisible Threat?  Of course not, then she couldn't just rectally-source her claims.  The fact is, is that the students worked completely independently of the Rotary Club; they made it very clear what they wanted to do and they will do it on their own.
But the young people and their advisors thought the Rotary proposal — to make a 20-minute educational film explaining how the immune system and immunization work — seemed boring, they said. And they bristled when the Rotarians told them how the movie should be made, added Bradley Streicher, one of the students who worked on it.

"We said, if we do this, we have to do this on our terms," he said. "We wanted to explore this from both sides."
I have spoken extensively with one of the parent volunteers who informed me that the students decide on the issue, research it, write it, conduct the interviews, conduct filming and editing.  Parent volunteers such as Douglas Green and Lisa Posard assist with contacting subjects, filming and ask some follow-up questions only after the students have interviewed subjects.  I guess given Ginger Taylor's limited ability to grasp science, she needs to project that onto others.  What is the anti-vaxx mantra?  "Do your own research."  These students did and they just didn't find anti-vaxx claims evidence-based or compelling.
She explained that this was the first time the film had been shown in New England (Really? They picked Portland, Maine?) and later explained that one of the reasons that it has not been widely distributed is because the children received death threats after the movie, just like poor Paul Offit (who we have asked for some documentation on these threats, a police report, anything, because, you know... if that shit is really happening, then NOT OK, and we would shame such people into oblivion for it... cause we are kinda sick of being called "baby killers" and being threatened with Child Protective Services as well.)
If Ms. Taylor was told the students received death threats then she was misinformed.  No one involved with CHSTV Films ever claimed they received death threats.  They have however received numerous threats of harm, harassment and intimidation meant to scare them away from completing the project and it nearly worked except the students you claim were "lead around by the nose" convinced the school to let them stay the course.  The school has records and aren't obliged to share them with other anti-vaxx loons.  Ms. Taylor seems to be justifying death threats to Dr. Offit (and he has received actual death threats) just because she doesn't like him.  Are anti-vaxx loons so morally challenged that they can't just condemn the practice of threats and intimidation no matter who they are directed against?  Seems not.
So the film begins, and it is all the same tropes.  It's all Wakefield's fault.  Your body is crawling with a bazillion creatures out to kill you.  Mothers of children who have died of "vaccine preventable" illnesses are beautiful and worthy of your compassion.  Mothers of children who believe vaccines cause their child's autism are into hippy dippy crap like rubbing oils on their kids and moving their limbs around to heal them.
If Ms. Taylor's "assessment" of the film and those involved wasn't bad enough, she goes on to mock mothers who lost their children to vaccine preventable diseases.  Not much more I can say other than to let Ms. Taylor's callous remark reflect upon her.  It is odd that she would be critical of the "vaccines cause autism" mom who engages in alternative medicine when she is representative of the very crowd that Ms. Taylor circulates in.  Perhaps she would have been more approving if the students interviewed the ditchpig mothers who force industrial bleach enemas, drinks and baths onto their autistic children then gush when the poor child shits out his intestinal mucosa.  Maybe parents forcing useless and dangerous chelation on their autistic children based upon bogus tests would meet with Ms. Taylor's approval.  Better yet, how about the one two punch of the Geiers and Mayer Eisenstein that involves falsely diagnosing precocious puberty, chemical castration with Lupron and then chelating?  Or any of the other abusive "biomed" you subject your children to?  Be careful what you wish for Ms. Taylor, had the students dug a little deeper, how much better does your hippy dippy autism mom look now?
The docs that treat their kids are unattractive quacks.  The docs that say vaccines are totally safe are attractive and established and should have angelic music behind them when they speak.
Actually the pro-science, evidence-based physicians who appeared in Invisible Threat had very ominous music playing in the background and they also never said that vaccines were "totally safe".  But more importantly, I would again caution Ms. Taylor to be careful what she wishes for.  Would the previously mentioned quacks like the Geiers, Keri Rivera or Jeff Bradstreet presented better than Dr. Centers?  What difference should it make what they look like, isn't the information they provide be of utmost import?  Perhaps Ms. Taylor had an epiphany (albeit brief) that anti-vaxxers look bad because their message and information are bad.  Ms. Taylor would no doubt be more approving of "more attractive" quacks like Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon.  They were contacted by CSHTV Films to participate and too bad they both declined to grant them interviews.

Ms. Taylor seems to take a tremendous amount of pride in "unleashing" on the panellists present to answer questions after the Invisible Threat screening.

So this is toward the end of the panel discussion, and I just unloaded on them. And not gracefully either.  The angry, talking 60 miles an hour Ginge burst out of me.  I explained that I was the mother of a vaccine injured child and... blah blah insert my creds here... and watching the movie (that they had all extolled) was hard for me because it contained so much that was false and incomplete and sucky.  (I didn't really say sucky.)

So Dr. Blaisdell addressed me very nicely/handled me, and asked me questions, so I was like.. "Fuck it... I am just going to keep talking as long as they will let me," which was a while. But then she brought it around with a "well what would you recommend for us" giving me a final say... again, good, but totally handling me. 
Of course you were being handled with kidd gloves; that's what sensible people do when confronted with an unhinged, gibbering person in close proximity.  It's quite a lack of self-awareness on Ms. Taylor's part to think that she dazzled them with her facts rather than scared the wits out of them.  Again, this is all I care to try and decipher but for those with more fortitude than I may find the rest of her rant to be an exercise in some kind of psychopathology if that's their interest.

Invisible Threat Just Became Visible

Invisible Threat is a documentary written, produced and directed by student filmakers from Carlsbad High school and their award-winning broadcast journalism program CHSTV Films.  It is an exquisitely done short film about the vaccine-autism manufactroversy.  CHSTV Films was approached by the Rotary Club International to produce a film about the immune system and how vaccines work to support their "Don't Wait, Vaccinate!" program.  However, the student broadcast journalists of CHSTV Films had their own idea:
But the young people and their advisors thought the Rotary proposal — to make a 20-minute educational film explaining how the immune system and immunization work — seemed boring, they said. And they bristled when the Rotarians told them how the movie should be made, added Bradley Streicher, one of the students who worked on it.
"We said, if we do this, we have to do this on our terms," he said. "We wanted to explore this from both sides."
Little did these students know what they were about to embark upon and the vitriol they would have to endure to see this documentary completed and released.  Over a year prior to completing the film, the North County Times of Escondido, CA reported on it and the hate blog Age of Autism wasted no time sliming the students and their project.  Links to the NC Times are dead, I understand the paper folded and fortunately for the Age of Autism denizens their vicious comments railing against the student journalists involved with Invisible Threat can no longer be seen.  However, the school received numerous threatening and harassing phone calls and their Facebook page continues to get nasty ad hominem comments (which are deleted).

The adult volunteers involved with Invisible Threat were rightfully concerned for the students' safety and wanted to terminate the project.  The students were not deterred however and it was then that they became the teachers and convinced the parent/teacher volunteers to forge ahead.
It was outrageous to me that the adults would cave to the intimidation. My passion for not backing down was as a student broadcast journalist and the lessons I’d learned making our first film, We Must Remember. In response to that film, it was white supremacists who were angry and contacting us, but we didn’t drop the project. The documentary was about American teens who discover the horrors of the Holocaust first hand by interviewing survivors, traveling to several concentration camps in Europe, and interviewing German teens with Nazi grandparents. The Academy Award winning producer for Schindler’s List, Branko Lustig, took our team to Croatia for the international premiere. There the filmmakers had the opportunity to speak to Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian teens about the lesson we learned. We Must Remember was made to promote tolerance and alert people to the dangers of bullying, while teaching history from a peer-to-peer approach. How could we back down from a topic because of bullying after what we learned and experienced with We Must Remember? The adults weren’t budging until I asked them to “Remember what happens when good people do nothing!
The documentary was completed and select screenings were arranged.  Apparently one that took place on Capitol Hill provoked a new round of vapid criticisms, oddly by those who hadn't even seen the film.
Focus Autism and AutismOne organizations complained about the movie's Rotary Club backing and about the involvement of Dr. Paul Offit, a University of Pennsylvania pediatrician and immunization proponent. They argued that "Invisible Threat" was "scripted with industry talking points" and that the movie seemed to be the work of adults operating under false pretenses, not students.
It is important to note that AutismOne is a notorious anti-vaxx organisation who gives a platform to fraudulent researcher Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, showcases horrible and abusive "autism treatments" such as bleach enemas, DIY faecal transplants, chemical castration and chelation and off-label prescription drug use.  Until this year, anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy sponsored Autism One conferences and still owns Generation Rescue an alleged autism charity that promotes unproven and dangerous "autism treatments" along with funding anti-vaxx "studies".  Focus Autism is another faux "autism resource" whose members and founders disseminate the discredited vaccine autism causation idea.  They attack perceived enemies as well as allies who don't toe their party line.

These are the groups and individuals with a clear axe to grind because they are the very types Invisible Threat features in their documentary.  But these are not particularly rational nor ethical people to begin with given what they advocate for.

The film has been completed, distributed to academic and public health institutions and has received glowing reviews and endorsements.  Invisible Threat has been scheduled to be released in conjunction with the 2014 National Immunization Awareness Month.  If you are a public health official, school administrator, healthcare provider or member of an academic institution, please visit Every Child By Two or contact to arrange for a screening and/or get a copy of Invisible Threat.  Please support these amazing students and their broadcast journalism program while educating the public about the threat to our health and well-being due to falling vaccination rates.  A student involved with the production of Invisible Threat made an amazingly eloquent statement about what she learned during the making of the film:
"My personal conclusion is that vaccinations causing autism is a social controversy, not a scientific one."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

RIP Charlie Haden

The world renowned jazz double bass player Charlie Haden passed away yesterday. How is that relevant for this blog?

Charlie Haden was a gifted singer, performing from the age of 2 years in his family's radio show, until he caught a form of bulbar polio as a teenager - this left him with weak vocal cords and unable to control his pitch. He picked up his brother's double bass and turned out to be one of jazz' greatest double bass players, pairing with Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley, Paul Motian, Carla Bley, Dewey Redman, Bill Frisell and others.

In 2010, Haden got struck by post-polio syndrome, leaving him extremely ill, and, cruelly, nearly unable to swallow. His wish was to play the bass again. Charlie Haden passed away after his long illness with his wife and four children at his side. Our thoughts go out to them.

image credit: Bassist Charlie Haden at radio station KJAZ in Alameda CA, 1981. Photo by Brian McMillen / contact: